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Clippers Retrospective: Marcin Gortat Was a Clipper

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Marcin Gortat was in fact a Clipper last season and played real minutes with the team. It’s almost hard to believe now.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Key Stats

  • Acquired from the Washington Wizards for Austin Rivers on June 26, 2018
  • 43 starts in 47 appearances
  • Averaged 16 minutes, 5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists on 53.2% FG shooting
  • Waived on February 7, 2019, to make room for JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple

Expectations

Mild? This trade heralded the end for DeAndre Jordan — to whom the Clippers gleefully bid a farewell on Twitter upon the mere announcement he was opting into free agency — but it wasn’t surprising that the team eyed a change at center. Nor was it surprising that the Clippers moved Austin Rivers — that relationship had run its course. What was surprising was that a front office that had hardly put a foot wrong would opt for an aging center coming off a lackluster year indicative of, you know, being an aging center.

Reaction on this site was appropriately tepid. I calculated a 2.3 GPA awarded by our roundtable. The general consensus was: right idea, (probably) wrong player.

Reality

Largely as expected. Gortat had his moments — seriously, the guy doesn’t set screens, he creates boundaries — but overall, the then 34-year-old with the bad wheels struggled to make a positive impact, especially at the offensive end of the floor. Long a heady player, his advancing age and dwindling athleticism meant his brain could no longer compensate for what his body couldn’t do. The defense was there in bursts but the production waned. His steal rate was abysmal. Gortat earned the worst PER of his career and turned the ball over like it was carrying fleas. The prodigal center was safely replacement level.

Fortunately, the Clippers seemed to know this in advance. (Lesson taught again: they are smart.) Doc Rivers didn’t give Gortat even a 21 minute-game until mid-December. The Clippers knew where their big-man bread would be buttered. Montrezl Harrell was the one true heir to DeAndre Jordan. Gortat was, like so many other pieces of this roster, a complement, a tool with limited means that would be used for its limited purpose(s). Gortat kept to his lane, sometimes ably, sometimes less so, until the Clippers found his better. (ZUBACCA! THANKS, LAKERS.)

Marcin Gortat did a job, and he did it well enough to help the Clippers to a pretty astonishing record. (Or, at least, he didn’t hobble them enough to keep them from it.) Remember how the Clippers were tied for first as late as December 5th? Gortat was a part of that. Maybe not a critical part, but a part nonetheless.

Legacy

Perhaps the more retentive among you can instantaneously recall every rostered player, but for most fans, Gortat’s Clipper tenure seems destined for trivia. As in, “For which player did the Clippers trade Hall-of-Fame guard Austin Rivers?” (I assume that’s what Basketball Hall of Fame standards will be by then.) I myself will come across his basketball-reference page sometime in the future and think, in order, “Aw, I remember Gortat. Solid player. Beastly dude. Nice run with the Magic. Oh that’s right, he played a half-season for the Clippers. . . .”